A SWAT team busts open your door, grabs all your computer gear, and arrests you for child pornography
That would be a swell day, eh? Oh, and then you lose your job, your friends shun you and strangers feel free to beat you to death. Or maybe you just decide to end it all. Thirty-nine people did.

All because of identity theft. And self-righteous, computer-illiterate police.

On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog
Actually, according to a recent article in the Guardian

. . . thousands of cases under Operation Ore have been built on the shakiest of foundations – the use of credit card details to sign up for pornography websites. In many cases, the card details were stolen; the sites contained nothing or legal material only; and the people who allegedly signed up to visit the sites never went there.

Among the accused: “. . . musicians Pete Townshend, the Who guitarist, and Robert del Naja of Massive Attack, both falsely accused of accessing child pornography.”

You may dimly recall a credit card site that both processed payments and authenticated credit card numbers whose owner is now serving a 180 year term for carrying listings to several overseas child-porn sites as well as thousands of legal adult porn sites. About 250,000 names and card numbers were seized from the site’s computers.

Over 7,000 of those names were British.

Here in the US, the FBI sent emails to people on the list offering child porn. About 100 responded. In the UK, police assumed that the people on the list were all active consumers. People lost jobs, lives, homes, friends and had to spend thousands defending themselves against the allegations.

And I thought medical identity theft was bad
You haven’t heard of medical identity theft? From a report by the World Privacy Forum:

Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses a person’s name and sometimes other parts of their identity — such as insurance information — without the person’s knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods, or uses the person’s identity information to make false claims for medical services or goods.

So you can be tagged as someone with HIV, cancer or TB and suddenly denied insurance. You may be dunned for $40,000 worth of surgery you never had. You may be tagged as a drug addict thanks to prescriptions in your name. Or you may be denied employment due to fabricated mental health problems.

Have a nice weekend.

The StorageMojo take
Massive storage is a wonderful thing. Yet we are still in the early stages of understanding how to ensure that information about people is valid, especially financial and medical information. Electronic medical records, which are a valid tool for improving medical care, only make this risk worse. I know IBM and Sun have been doing some work in this area, and I’d be happy to publish information about what other companies are doing as well.

In the meantime, WPF has a number of recommendations for improving patient access to medical records. As for shoddy police work, I’m afraid that will always be with us and innocent people will suffer the consequences.

Comments welcome, as always. I’ve been cranking away on the toughest competitive analysis project of my career for a client and its been eating up my time something fierce. I’ll be getting to the second part of “EMC has Ph.Ds?” next week.